OK, this is a long one, because this is actually two posts from April 2006 combined together as one. I hope you will take time to read it. It really is some good stuff... even if I do say so myself.
Yeah, I’m back there on worship again. I just can’t seem to get away from this for long. It seems to me that 90% or more of the church world (I purposely do not use the term “Body of Christ” here) thinks that worship is what we do when the music starts at church. For others, it may include when the music starts at home, or where ever they may be. The point is, they think worship is what we do when the music plays. While this is (can be) worship, it is only a small part of worship.
I have been wrestling with these questions: “What is worship?” and “What is the purpose of worship?” While I certainly do not have all of the answers, I do recognize first of all that the purpose of our worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God. To accomplish this, I am convinced that our worship must show our adoration and loyalty to God. Those two words are critical to understand, and I am really afraid that most of those who attend church really have no clue to the concept of adoration and loyalty to Christ. One cannot really “worship” God if they are not totally devoted and steadfastly committed to Him. Another word for loyalty is faithful. How many can really say they are “faithful” to coming to church as often as they can. Statements like these reveal the truthfulness of where our heart’s desire lies: “Sorry I missed church Pastor, but we had a family cookout.” “I would have been there Sunday, but it was such a pretty day, and I had so much yard work to do.” Need I go on? I didn’t think so. The truth is, when you are committed, faithful and loyal, your first priority is toward Christ, and serving him, and you will make the effort to schedule your life in such a way that other “things” do not pre-empt the time of worship. Period. End of story. We don’t call in to work and say, “Sorry, I would like to be there today, but I have yard work to do” (or a family dinner, or what ever). You would not have a job very long! Why? They EXPECT loyalty and faithfulness from you as an employee to be there when you are scheduled; and if you are not, then they will find someone who is! The truth is, we make excuses and try to justify ourselves with “God understands my heart” statements. The fact is, He DOES understand our heart, and he sees that many people say they love Him and go through the motions of “worship” when it is convenient, but their lives tell a different story.
James 4:6, 10 tells us, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up". Our worship to God is a very humble and reverent action. Part of humility is laying our own wants and desires down and expending ourselves to meet His desire. What is His desire? For us to worship Him.
Jesus says in John 4:23-24, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." It doesn’t say we can worship God anyway we want and when we want, but we "must worship Him in spirit and in truth". The word "must" makes it absolute. There is no room for negotiation. There is no other way we can worship God and be acceptable to Him. The word "must", according to Webster, expresses "an obligation, a requirement, a necessity, a certainty, and something that must be done". When "must" is used it means that it is not optional. Here the word "must" is expressing that in spirit and in truth is the only way to acceptably worship God.
In the last post I talked about the concept of adoration and loyalty to God. I want to go on now to what Jesus might have been talking about in John 4:23-24, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
Again, it doesn’t say we can worship God anyway we want and when we want, but we "must worship Him in spirit and in truth". The word "must" makes it absolute. The word "must", according to Webster, expresses "an obligation, a requirement, a necessity, a certainty, and something that must be done". When "must" is used it means that it is not optional. Here the word "must" is expressing that in spirit and in truth is the only way to acceptably worship God.
So, if we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, what is it then that Jesus is referring to? It is evident that God seeks true worshippers, and He identifies them as those who "worship Him in spirit and in truth". Worshipping God in spirit means that it must be done from the heart (or spirit). Worshipping God in truth means that it must be done according as God has specified in the Bible. Worshipping God in spirit and in truth is a serious matter which must not be taken lightly. If we have any regard for our own souls, we will want to make sure we are worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
Since God is the object of our worship, He and He alone has the right to determine how we are to worship Him.
We read in Jeremiah 10:23, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." It should be obvious to us, yet we seem to struggle with this concept, but we are not granted the option of directing our own ways in religion. God is the One who we look to for guidance and direction in our lives. Our very best in worship is due God and is prescribed by Him in the Bible. The worship God has prescribed is the only way we can be pleasing to Him in this life and finally attain everlasting life with Him in eternity. Sadly, worship is so very neglected by most Christians, yet our worship is of the greatest importance. Worship is a time when we pay deep, sincere, awesome respect, love, and fear (reverence) to the one who created us.
Acts 17:24-25 says, "God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life, breath, and all things."
God is the one who holds our eternal destiny in His hands.
Philippians 2:12 tells us to, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
Our salvation is a very serious matter and will not happen by accident. Remember here, we are not talking about when we are "born again". Our spirits are born again when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and invite Him into our lives. Our spirits are "saved" at that moment, but our soul (our minds) need to be renewed. The salvation Paul is referring to here is not our experience of being born again. That work was accomplished on Calvary and we cannot work that out. It is accept Christ or not. But we must work it out "with fear and trembling" the salvation of our minds. We must work to renew our minds. I contend to you that what we do to "work out" our salvation in a very large part depends on whether our worship is pleasing to God or not. Again, worship is not just what we do in the worship time in church, but how we live out our lives from day to day. The ultimate question is, "Is my life giving glory and honor to Christ from day to day?" We must learn to live from the spirit (heart) side of us, rather than letting our minds rule the day. You cannot worship God with purity from the mind. Your "self" will get in the way. Worship must come from the spirit, that part of us that was created to be in fellowship and communion with the Lord. We can connect with God, spirit to Spirit, and we must be led by the spirit, not the mind.
Worship should cause us to reflect on the majesty and graciousness of God. God does not have to have our worship, but we must worship Him to please Him.
Our singing, praying, studying His word, giving, and communion are designed by God to bring us closer to Him and to cause us to think more like He thinks, thus becoming more like Him.
Our worship not only honors and magnifies God, but it is also for our own edification and strength. Worship helps us develop a God-like and Christ-like character.
We become like the one we admire and worship. When we worship God we tend to value what God values and gradually take on the characteristics and qualities of God. (But never to His level.)
s Philippians 2:5 says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ." How do we take on the mind of Christ? In Romans 12:2 we read, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." We renew our mind as we study and meditate on God’s word and worship Him.
When we worship God we develop such traits as forgiveness, tenderness, justice, mercy, righteousness, purity, kindness, and love. There is an old saying that says, "Imitation is the highest form of flattery." How do you think God takes it when He sees His children taking on his characteristics? I submit to you... we worship God by becoming more and more like Him.